Escape Sign – The Vikings [Review]

Norse codes

Location: Petah Tikvah, Israel

Date Played: May 11, 2022

Team Size: 3-8; we recommend 4-5

Duration: 75 minutes

Price: 140 NIS per player for 3 players to 110 NIS per player for 7+ players

Ticketing: Private

Accessibility Consideration: Low lighting and walking on uneven surfaces (all players)

Emergency Exit Rating: We’re unsure what fire escape measures there were, if any. More Info.

Physical Restraints: [A+] No Physical Restraints

REA Reaction

The Vikings was a stunning hybrid of immersive theater and escape room. Featuring a memorable immersive entrance into the space, a lovingly constructed set that told a story, and compelling acting, The Vikings was a dark and intense adventure within the more often lighthearted Israeli escape room scene.

Very few Israeli escape rooms include actors, let alone a challenging multi-character role that dominates a good portion of the experience. Our actor’s performance was nothing short of spectacular, instantly transporting us to a different time and place. He looked and spoke like a Viking, and his English was near perfect. It was abundantly clear that he was a properly trained and highly talented actor, not just a gamemaster who’d been taught a few lines in order to deliver a brief, campy performance. Moreover, his roles were cleverly integrated into some of the narrative and game mechanics.

Wooden exterior of an ancient building with a torch hanging from the wall and a spear beside it. .

There were more than a few beautiful moments in The Vikings, but one particular scene β€” and set piece β€” provided an intimately cinematic, perfectly timed vision that has regularly haunted my dreams since I played. It was exactly this sort of sublime scene that keeps me excited about escape rooms.

The Vikings was breathtaking up until its final scene, where things began to fall apart. In brighter lighting, without the presence of the actor, and in a room with a rather lumpy and lifeless animatronic figure, imperfections shone through and the immersion crumbled in on itself. This scene still included some great interactions that appropriately continued the story, but the spell had already been broken. This did not take away from the magic that came before, but it failed to deliver the glorious victory it had set itself up for.

As is, The Vikings is a fantastic must-play experience. With some edits to the lighting, pacing, and character interactions of the final scene, it could become a true tour de force.

Who is this for?

  • Story seekers
  • Adventure seekers
  • Scenery snobs
  • Any experience level

Why play?

  • Fantastic characters and acting
  • Immersive set design
  • A memorable set piece

Story

Following the real-life story of the Vikings’ Siege of Paris in 845, we were tasked with finding our way across rough seas from our village to Paris to assist Ragnar Lodbrok, the king of the Vikings.

An old viking village with a well in the middle of a path.

Setting

The Vikings began in a rustic Viking village. From the stone well in the town square, to actual animal skulls on the ground, to the tusk-and-stone sink and wooden toilet in the restroom, nearly every detail shouted Viking. Through a wood-paneled wall stood the king’s throne room.

A horn beside a bottle of liquid soap at an archeological dig.

Gameplay

Escape Sign’s The Vikings was an actor-driven escape room with a moderate level of difficulty.

Core gameplay revolved around solving puzzles and interacting with a character.

Analysis

βž• The Vikings opened strongly with a creative entrance sequence, an in-world “lobby” area (including the restroom!), and thematically contextualized game rules.

βž• Salvaged from a breadth of sources, the set felt solid and looked fantastic. Actual stone, wood, and bone added a level of heft and realism to the construction. Detailed murals extended certain scenes beyond what had been physically built.

βž• One particular set piece was especially floated my boat. The level of craftsmanship and effort that went into this piece is staggering, and it felt like it shouldn’t have even been able to fit into an indoor space.

βž• Above all else, The Vikings stood out for its use of a live actor. From rousing monologues to sequences of dynamic improv, the actor defined the experience from start to finish. He was a fun character to interact with, and he was responsive to how much or little we were reciprocating.

βž– As successful as the live acting was, the automatons in The Vikings failed to deliver. One character shrouded in low lighting was a sufficiently mysterious yet underwhelming presence. Another character in brighter lighting look awkward and fake and took away from the immersion.

βž• The focus of The Vikings was not necessarily on its puzzles, yet the puzzles included some creative interactions that were elegantly embedded within the set. The gameplay drove forward our exploration of the space and story, and it was overall quite well signposted.

βž– A neat physical puzzle was poorly clued, with some redundancies providing confusion more than clarity.

❓ Much of the game took place in fairly low lighting, and there were some brief moments of complete darkness. For me, this lighting set an appropriate mood and was sufficient to see everything we needed. Some players might want the option of stronger handheld lighting sources.

βž– The finale could have been stronger had it been about victory instead of escape, and we experienced a drop in energy right at the end. Our abrupt egress from the game world, and our immediate interaction with the out-of-character actor, didn’t parallel the smooth immersion into the game. That’s not to say that there shouldn’t be an out-of-world debrief, but there was space for a more creative narrative transition back into the real world.

Tips For Visiting

Book your session with Escape Sign’s The Vikings, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.

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